Foodwastestudies session at the European Roundtable for Sustainable Consumption and Production

By Jordon Lazell @jlazell

The 18th occurrence of the European Roundtable on Sustainable Production and Consumption (ERSCP17) featured a session on ‘food and waste’ organised by the International Food Waste and Food Loss Studies Group, chaired by myself, Jordon Lazell, and Professor Piergiuseppe Morone (Unitelma Sapienza University of Rome). The conference took place in Skiathos, Greece from the 1st to the 5th of October with the special session scheduled for Monday the 1st. The food and waste special session was one of a number of sessions that covered areas such as the circular economy, waste management, eco design, innovation and efficiency, smart cities and business strategies for sustainable production and consumption.

Despite the submission of 8 abstracts, 3 speakers were present and gave presentations. This included myself, Piergiuseppe and Marie Hebrok, a PhD student from Consumption Research Norway (SIFO). The session produced up a number of interesting findings and follow up conversations. I first presented some of the findings of my PhD, showing how wider sets of practices, such as working and commuting practices, influence consumption and subsequent wastage of food. Piergiuseppe followed who presented his research in development that investigated which policy actions might modify the current unsustainable food consumption models in order to achieve a significant reduction in food waste. Marie Hebrok rounded off the session discussing her research on the underlying structural drivers of food waste by studying everyday practices related to food.

Marie discusses how consumers are tasked with negotiated a web of contextual measures, such as planning, health, diversity and thrift and how the performance or non-performance of these are causing food waste.
Piergiuseppe presents the findings of the fuzzy inference simulation which assessed the use of food waste reduction language, mapping of causal-effect relationships by experts and drivers to potentially discourage unsustainable consumer behaviour.

Overall the session was successful in highlighting food waste behaviours and food waste policy interventions. The active audience of 30 to 40 attendees gave great feedback on the papers presented, particularly with regard to the methodology and sampling of the studies. The speakers commented they enjoyed having 30 minutes for their presentation and questions given that this was limited to 15 minutes in others sessions. The foodwastestudies group was also promoted as one of a number of research practitioner networks active at the conference.

There were a number of keynote presentations at the event. Dr. Paolo Taticchi (Imperial College London) speech raised an interesting point regarding the need for businesses to move away from consumption based business models, which ultimately contribute towards the generation of consumer waste. Paolo gave examples of businesses models that are based upon reduced or limited consumption such as the backpack company Patagonia.

If translated to food retailing this could have potential implications for how food is sold, for example moving away from mass retailing low cost food products, and instead towards a situation where the where the quality and the value of products are more greatly emphasised in purchases, such as food’s embedded production practices and environmental implications.

I also enjoyed Dr. Nancy Bocken’s talk about pay per use business models. Using the example of washing machines, Nancy discussed how pay user businesses models could lead a change towards reducing the amount of energy and associated carbon emissions produced by households. In her research, rather than owning a washing machine participants paid per wash with the price increasing with the temperature and length of the programme time. The results showed that participants undertook fewer washes at a lower temperature. It’s interesting to think what pay per use systems could mean for food waste management, with arrangements where a household pays for their food waste allowance in advance perhaps potential reducing the amount thrown away.

Overall the conference made a critical contribution towards progressing sustainable consumption and production with the foodwastestudies group forwarding research in the area of food waste as part of this development.